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The Image of a Just Ruler:

Cicero, Monarchy, and Xenophons Cyropaedia


Timothy W. Caspar
Hillsdale College

33 East College Street


Hillsdale, Michigan 49242
(517) 607-2507
tcaspar@hillsdale.edu

Prepared for a Panel on


Xenophon, the Philosopher, and the Theological-Political Problem
Sponsored by the Claremont Institute
107th Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association
September 1 4, 2011
Seattle, Washington
Cicero, in a letter to his brother Quintus, written in Rome at the end of 60 or the

beginning of 59 BC while the latter was serving as a proconsul in Asia, offers high praise

for the Cyrus described in Xenophons Cyropaedia. In that book, according to Cicero,

Xenophon sketched not a historical Cyrus but a Cyrus who is in fact an image of a just

ruler (effigiem iusti imperii) and may therefore serve as a model for anyone who holds

absolute power over other human beings.1 For students of Cicero, this remark is a

puzzling one, especially considering his explicit criticism of monarchy in De Re Publica

as the most unstable of all regimes, because it can turn so quickly into the worst kind of

tyranny. Although he goes out of his way to praise Cyrus as the best example of a

monarch, nevertheless those over whom a monarch rules lack sufficient access to shared

justice and any sense of deliberative responsibility. Ciceros description of the just

republic as res publica res populi or the public thing is the peoples thingnot to

mention his famous definition of the natural law as a law that applies to all people

everywhere and at all timesapparently excludes monarchy, because such a regime does

not take adequate account of the people.2

1
Letter to Quintus, I.1.23, in Cicero, Letters to Quintus and Brutus. Letter Fragments. Letter to Octavian.
Invectives. Handbook of Electioneering, ed. and trans. D.R. Shackleton Bailey, (Cambridge: Harvard
University Press, 2002). References to the text of the Cyropaedia are from Xenophon, The Education of
Cyrus, trans. and ann. Wayne Ambler, (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001). W.R. Newell, Machiavelli
and Xenophon on Princely Rule: A Double-Edged Encounter, The Journal of Politics, Vol. 50, No. 1
(February 1988), 108-130, at 109-110, cites the letter as evidence of the influence of Xenophons work on
Cicero, both of whom were greatly admired by Renaissance humanists for their combination of intellectual
and moral virtues. Christopher Whidden, The Account of Persia and Cyruss Persian Education in
Xenophons Cyropaedia, The Review of Politics 69 (2007), 539-567, at 552-553, cites the letter to show
that Cicero is the originator of the dominant scholarly interpretation of the Cyropaedia, an interpretation
of which Whidden is critical. However, as this paper will attempt to demonstrate, Ciceros praise of Cyrus
is substantially qualified by his other writings.
2
De Re Publica, I.39, 43-44, cf. III.33. For the English text of De Re Publica and De Legibus, I consulted
Cicero, On the Commonwealth and On the Laws, ed. James E.G. Zetzel, (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1999). For the Latin text, see M. Tulli Ciceronis, De Re Publica, De Legibus, Cato Maior
De Senectute, Laelius De Amicitia, ed. J.G.F. Powell, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006).

2
This seeming inconsistency cannot be attributed to a lack of familiarity with

Xenophons book. The eminent Cicero scholar J.G.F. Powell has written that Cicero

knew the Cyropaedia well, and he cites a number of instances where Cicero refers

directly to Xenophons work.3 However, it is only in the letter to Quintus that Cicero

offers lengthier comments on the political teaching of the Cyropaedia, while at the same

time commending the book to his brother. If Cicero knew the Cyropaedia well, as Powell

appears to demonstrate, and assuming therefore that his praise of Xenophons Cyrus is

indeed no accident, then one is forced to turn to another possible solution to this seeming

contradiction. Perhaps Ciceros praise of the monarchy presented in the Cyropaedia is

not only intentional but also consistent with the criticism of monarchy offered in De Re

Publica. Accordingly, this paper seeks to outline Ciceros criticism of monarchy, a

criticism confirmed in De Legibus by the institutional make-up of Ciceros mixed regime.

In light of this Ciceronian critique, the paper then considers key elements of the

monarchy established in the Cyropaedia, especially the reasons why the regime failed

following the death of Cyrus. And finally, the paper concludes by proposing that Ciceros

praise of Cyrus should be considered in light of the context in which it was given

advice to a beloved though non-philosophical brother who finds himself in the position of

ruling a far flung Roman province while holding absolute power. In other words, Quintus

must rule like a monarch, and Cicero seeks to guide him in that particular task.

Far from being an indicator of Ciceros inconsistency, I suggest that the praise of

Cyruss monarchical regime forms an essential element of Ciceros foreign policy. While

3
Cicero, Cato Maior De Senectute, ed with intro. and commentary, J.G.F. Powell, (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1988), 165. In addition to De Senectute, 30, 79-81, and the letter to Quintus cited above,
these citations are: De Legibus, II.56; Brutus, 112; De Finibus, 2.92; Tusculan Disputations, 5.99. To this
list we could add the two indirect references to the Cyropaedia in De Re Publica, I.43-44.

3
the mixed republic is essential for just domestic politics, when one finds oneself in the

position of having to rule with absolute power abroad, one should rule as much as

possible as Cyrus did. Seen in this way, the critique of monarchy in Ciceros political

books goes hand in hand with his praise of it, in what D.R. Shackleton Bailey describes

as no ordinary letter but a tract, presumably meant for at least private circulation, which

might have been entitled Advice to a Governor.4 The attempt to found an entire regime

on the principle of monarchyno matter how virtuous the monarch himself may becan

only end up in the dissolution of such a regime, as Cicero predicts in De Re Publica and

as comes to pass at the end of the Cyropaedia, following the death of Cyrus. However,

Cicero argues that a mixed republic, properly constructed, is the best, most just, and most

lasting kind of regime, and such a regime may take advantage of the principle of

monarchy in its foreign policy dealings as a way to contribute to the longevity it both

seeks and deserves.

Monarchy in De Re Publica

Ciceros De Re Publica presents a conversation among Roman statesmen and

gentlemen and is set in the year 129 BC, shortly before the death of the central character

Scipio Africanus. Early in the dialogue, Scipios interlocutors, including his good friend

Laelius, ask him to present his thoughts about the republic, which he does, launching into

a discussion of different regime types. Scipio prefaces his dialectical investigation by

pointing out that every regime, if it is to be long lived, must be governed by some type of

deliberation (consilium) that aims to uphold the first principles of the regime. The regime
4
Introduction to Letters to Quintus, 4.

4
necessarily places this deliberative function in the hands of one, few, or many, and when

this function is in the hands of one man, there one finds a monarch or king (regem) and

the type of republic (rei publicae statum) known as monarchy or kingship (regnum).5

Interestingly, Scipio at first suggests that any one of the three pure regime types,

including monarchy, even though it may not be perfect or in my opinion the best

possible, still is tolerable as long as it holds to the bond which first bound men together in

the association of a republic. What is more, any one [regime] might be better than

another. In the case of monarchy, this depends on having for a ruler a king who is

equitable and wise (aequus ac sapiens). And any of these three regimes, so long as

injustice and greed do not overcome the ruler (or rulers), may exist in a stable

condition.6 Scipio begins his discussion of regimes by placing each one in the best

possible or most charitable light.

Yet, in the very next sentence, the case for monarchy, and for the other pure

regime types, begins to unravel. In a monarchy it is only the king who is able to

participate in deciding what is best for the regime, while the few and the many find

themselves all but shut out of any discussions about communal justice (iuris) or

deliberations (consilii) about the common good. (Similarly, the other two pure regime

types have their own inherent flaws: aristocracy denies liberty to the people, and popular

rule enforces an absolute equality or egalitarianism that refuses to recognize any

gradations of honor, rank, or dignity.) This reflection on the basic injustice of monarchy

leads Scipio to invoke one of the most powerful and moving examples of a good king

known to him and his interlocutors, in order to drive home his point: And so, even if that

5
De Re Publica, I.41-42.
6
De Re Publica, I.42.

5
Persian Cyrus was the most just and most wise king, nevertheless that does not seem to

me to be a greatly desirable thing of the people (for that is what I earlier called a

republic), since it was ruled by the nod and in the manner of one man.7 What Scipio

diagnoses as the primary ill of monarchythe fact that it shuts the few and the many out

of deliberations about the common goodcannot be cured by any king, no matter how

virtuous, because it is a disease endemic to kingship itself.

What is worse, every pure type of regime sits at the head of a sheer and slippery

path to a kindred evil, and the path that lies before the monarch seems particularly

steep and slick. Here again Scipio invokes Cyruswhom he calls not only tolerable

but perhaps even lovable and the best example (potissimum) of a kingto emphasize

the potential instability or changeability of kingship. Every king, no matter how virtuous,

is liable to a sudden or arbitrary alteration in his soul (animi), following which the best

kind of king can become the worst kind of tyrant. This leads Scipio to claim that even the

great Cyrus has the potential to be turned into a Phalaris, the cruelest of all tyrants,

should he experience this revolution in his soul.8 Now, by suggesting that there is a

Phalaris lurking in the soul of the renowned Cyrus, Scipio seems to suggest that every

king, no matter how great (or small), possesses some amount of tyrannical ambition or at

least the capacity to act tyrannically. Even if Cyrus is able to restrain his tyrannical

impulse, his successor may not be, and therefore tyranny, perhaps the worst kind of

tyranny, is inevitable for those living under a kingship. What appears at first glance to be

the most advantageous kind of rule for the people as a wholethe people turn over all

responsibility and worry about ruling to a king, while they are free to live in peace and

7
De Re Publica, I.43.
8
De Re Publica, I.44.

6
happinesswill sooner or later turn out to be the most disadvantageous. Scipio teaches

his interlocutors that the two extremes of benevolent monarchy and the cruelest tyranny

stand on common ground: both deny the people the right, and the responsibility, to rule

themselves. Monarchical regimes eventually get what they deserve.

The only way to check this inevitable revolution in regimesand the other two

pure types of regime are susceptible to undesirable but unavoidable change, toois

through a close and careful study of the various ways in which regimes change, coupled

with the founding of a mixed regime. As Scipio says, My own opinion, therefore, is that

there is a fourth type of republic that is most to be desired, one that is blended and mixed

from these first three types that I have mentioned.9 In other words, a regime, if it is to be

a just and lasting one, must take account of its constituent parts, not only the one, but the

few and the many, too. This conclusion does not satisfy his interlocutors who, led by

Laelius, repeatedly press him to choose the one best type of regime. Scipio tries to cling

to his earlier position, saying again that he prefers an alloy of all three, but then, caving

to his friends pressure, he concedes that if he had to express approval of one of the

simple forms he would choose monarchy.10

In defense of his choice, Scipio offers five arguments by analogy: the universe is

ruled by one god; Rome was at one time ruled by good kings and that time was not so

long ago; the mind or judgment rules, or should rule, over anger and desires; a well-

functioning household is ruled by one master; and lastly, in time of war, the Roman

people turn to one great man or dictator to rule them and keep them safe, just as sailors

turn to the best pilot during a storm at sea and those who are sick seek out the best doctor.

9
De Re Publica, I.45.
10
De Re Publica, I.54.

7
And yet, none of these arguments alters the fundamental point regarding the potentially

capricious and arbitrary behavior of a king. Furthermore, of the two examples from

Roman history, the first reinforces Scipios previous argument about the instability of

kingship, and the secondthe voluntary choice to be ruled by a dictator who possesses

absolute poweris an example of a kind of temporary tyranny, to which Rome turns

when safety matters more than ones own desires.11 The steps one takes when the

survival of the nation is at stake may be understandable and necessary, but they do not

offer much guidance for the normal, everyday operations of the just regime.

Having been tempted once more by the theoretical allures of a just and wise

monarchy (perhaps because of its similarity to the rule of reason in philosophy12), Scipio

concludes the first book of De Re Publica with a two-part response to Laeliuss request to

explain the patterns of changes not just in our own republic but in all republics.13 His

explanation of those patterns is followed by a defense of the mixed regime. As we saw

previously, it is not only the regime of kingship that is in danger of going down a sheer

and slippery path that will lead to its being transformed into an unjust regime.14 Because

all regimes face this challenge, Scipio is led to reflect with greater precision on, as he

puts it, the transformations of republics.15 What is striking here is that Scipios

concluding statement of his preference for the mixed regime, like the first one, follows a

discussion of regime change, of the fact that no regime remains as it was founded for

11
De Re Publica, I.63.
12
Cf. De Re Publica, I.26-29, where Scipio disparages politics and defines the law of nature as that
which forbids anything to belong to anyone except someone who knows how to employ and use it.
13
De Re Publica, I.64.
14
Cf. De Re Publica, I.44.
15
De Re Publica, I.65.

8
very long.16 Though monarchy is certainly not unique in this respect, it is especially

vulnerable: Scipio, though he has a clear attachment to monarchy in the abstract,

recognizes that, in practice, the alteration of the monarchic form is the first and the most

certain. The form of kingship is immediately destroyed at the very moment that a

king begins to be unjust, whereupon that very same king becomes a tyrant, which is the

worst form of government, even if it is closest to the best.17 Monarchy may be a

beautiful regime in speech, but in practice it fails to recognize the possibility of injustice

in even the most virtuous human being.18

In other words, once a regime begins to change, as it inevitably will, students of

political philosophyScipio, for examplemust put their knowledge of theoretical

regimes to work in an effort to try and understand the causes and implications of this

change. Once they have determined whether the change is for the better or for the worse,

they will be able to act to encourage good change and to slow down, stop, or even reverse

bad change. As Scipio said earlier in the dialogue,

There are remarkable revolutions (orbes) and almost cycles of changes


and alterations in republics; to recognize them is the part of a wise man
(sapientis), and to anticipate (prospicere) them when they are about to
occur, holding a course and keeping it under his control while governing,
is the part of a truly great citizen and nearly divine man.

Because all three pure regime types are most susceptible to the ills brought on by these

revolutions, Scipio seeks his cure in a fourth type of republic, one in which the three

pure types are blended and mixed (moderatum et permixtum).19 Literally speaking, the

16
Scipios second statement of preference for the mixed regime is at De Re Publica, I.54, where he says
that he prefers the type of regime that is an alloy of all three pure regime types. This statement is
preceded by a defense of aristocracy and followed by his lengthy defense of monarchy.
17
De Re Publica, I.65 (italics added for emphasis), cf. II.47-48.
18
Consider the discussion of Cyrus at De Re Publica, I.44.
19
De Re Publica, I.45, cf. II.45.

9
mixed regime is a moderating regime: the best aspect or leading characteristic of each

pure type of regime moderates the worst tendencies of the other two. Thus, the mixed

regime aims at the moderation of all of its parts: the one, the few, and the many.

This point is reiterated at the end of the first book of De Re Publica, when Scipio

says yet again that he prefers monarchy to the other pure types of regime, but monarchy

itself is surpassed by a government which is balanced and compounded (aequatum et

temperatum) from the three primary forms of republics. Such a government gives an

institutional voice to an outstanding and royal element (praestans et regale), the

leading citizens (principum), and the people at large (multitudinis), and is

characterized first of all by equality (aequabilitatem) and next by stability

(firmitudinem). Those revolutions to which the pure types of regime so often fall prey

will not afflict this moderately mixed (moderateque permixta) form of republican

constitution, unless there are great vices in the leaders (principum).20 While Scipio

entertains monarchy as the best form of government in theory throughout the first book of

De Re Publica, as a statesman concerned with aiding an actual republic (Rome)21, he is

forced eventually to come to grips with the revolutions, cycles, and alterations that

afflict all actual regimes, and so he finally rejects monarchy as a lasting political solution.

While all three pure types of regime are unstable, monarchy is especially so, and the one

most easily and quickly changed through revolution into tyranny. Those who wish to

found just and lasting regimes will certainly incorporate a monarchical element, but such

20
De Re Publica, I.69; cf. II.57: If a statesmans goal is to preserve a republic unchanged
(incommutabilem), then there must be an equitable balance of power in the magistrates, authority in the
counsels of the best men, and liberty in the people.
21
Cf. De Re Publica, I.31-35, 70.

10
founders will recognize that it is only the mixed regime that can bring about enduring

political happiness, precisely because it is the moderateand moderatingregime.

Monarchy in De Legibus

Cicero confirms this teaching about monarchy in De Legibus, in which the lead

interlocutor Marcus says a number of times that he is legislating for the mixed Roman

republic presented by Scipio in De Re Publica.22 Marcus notes near the beginning of

Book III of De Legibusthe book devoted to the promulgation and explanation of the

laws of the magistracy or the laws regarding the arrangement of officesthat the power

of command (imperium) was placed in the hands of kings in early Rome, as was the case

with all ancient peoples (omnes antiquae gentes). This was done in the belief that these

men were most just and most wise (iustissimos et sapientissimos), which was true so

long as monarchic power (regalis potestas) was in charge. However, with the overthrow

of the tyrant Tarquinius Superbus, the line of early Roman kings came to an end.

Therefore, Marcus says, since we are giving laws for free peoples and legislating for

Scipios best republic (de optima re publica), this regime will not have one king but

numerous magistrates, who will know not only how to rule but also how to be ruled in

turn. Far from rule by one man, the arrangement of these various offices will determine

the organization (moderatio) of the entire republic. Translating literally, the properly

22
De Legibus, I.20; II.14, 23; III.4, 12. Note that Marcus legislates for Scipios Rome and not a historical
Rome. Though many scholars think Scipio presents an idealized or reformed Rome in his account, this idea
is not without controversy: see Timothy W. Caspar, Recovering the Ancient View of Founding: A
Commentary on Ciceros De Legibus, (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2010), 2-4.

11
structured republic will be, as Scipio prescribed, a moderate and therefore mixed

republic.23

The laws themselves confirm that there will a royal or monarchic element in the

regime, but this power will be divided and checked for the sake of moderating it. There is

only one mention of monarchic power in the table of laws presented in Book III: the law

that creates the office of consul. It reads as follows: Let there be two with royal power of

command.24 Not only is the royal power divided in half, in effect weakening it, but it

will be checked by the power of the tribunes of the people: Let those ten whom the

people (plebes) have created on their own behalf as aid against violence (vim) be their

tribunes, and let whatever they have forbidden or had approved by the people (plebs) be

duly ratified.25 Marcuss brother Quintus, during the discussion that follows the

promulgation of the law code, attacks the power of the tribunes, because he sees it as

diminishing the power and authority of the best men of the regime, men Quintus thinks

should rule for the good of all. In response, Marcus confirms the laws moderating effect,

and he urges Quintus to

recognize in this [law] the wisdom of our ancestors: when the senate
yielded this power to the plebeians, the weapons were put down, the
sedition was calmed, moderation was discovered, which allowed the
people of lower rank (tenuiores) to think that they were made equal to the
leaders (principibus); and that was the single salvation of the political
order (civitatis salus).26

Apparently, dividing the power of the consuls does not go far enough to ensure the mixed

and therefore moderate nature of the regime.

23
De Legibus, III.3-5; cf. De Re Publica, I.69, II.44-49.
24
De Legibus, III.8: Regio imperio duo sunto.
25
De Legibus, III.9.
26
De Legibus, III.24.

12
Indeed, this point is confirmed during a general discussion of the subject of

magistrates, a conversation that occurs after Atticuss request that Marcus explain his

law code but before Marcus begins the explanation itself. Marcus makes clear that, in

addition to the division of the royal power, there must be some institutional check on the

consuls; otherwise, the substance [of kingship] will remain if there is a single person

who commands all the other magistrates.27 Even though the consuls are two in number,

which gives each consul a de facto veto power over the acts of the other (i.e., they must

agree before any action might be taken), their joint possession of absolute authority

marks the very essence of kingly rule. Hence, Marcus urges Quintus to see the political

prudence of the decision to have tribunes against the consuls, tribunes who serve as the

only limit on consuls who hold the legal authority to compel every other magistrate in

Rome. Absent the tribunate, which was the first thing that reduced consular authority

(consulare ius), Rome might not be a kingship in name but would be so in fact.28 To

head off the political ill of tyrannywhich Scipio, given his analysis of monarchy in De

Re Publica, would advise is inevitable if the consular or royal power continues

uncheckedMarcus prescribes the addition of tribunes to the body politic. Quintus may

find this political medicine a bitter pill to swallow, but it is the only way to bring about a

moderate and wise blending (temperatio) in the Roman regime.29 Rule by the

monarchical element alone, or, for that matter, rule by the aristocratic element alone, as

Quintus strongly desires, can only lead to an intemperate, and therefore unjust, regime.

Instead, Marcus, like Scipio, defends the mixed regime. Such a regime not only contains

27
De Legibus, III.15.
28
De Legibus, III.16.
29
De Legibus, III.17.

13
royal and popular elements, it will also be led by a just and wise senate whose most

important task is to serve as a model of virtue for the entire republic.30

Cicero and Xenophons Cyropaedia

What can Ciceros view of kingship teach us about the regime founded by

Xenophons Cyrus? An answer to this question could go very far toward revealing what

Cicero might have learned about kingship from a close and careful study of the

Cyropaedia. Because the attempt by Cyrus to found a lasting monarchical regime is of

particular relevance to this paper, the following analysis focuses mainly on the eighth and

final book of the Cyropaedia, in which Cyrus attempts to transform his numerous

military successes into long lasting civil rule. This narrowness of focus is not meant to

suggest that there is not much to be learned from the first seven books of Xenophons

workindeed, it seems clear that the Cyropaedia as a whole was an important influence

on Ciceros political thinking.31

With that said, near the end of the seventh book of the Cyropaedia, after Cyrus

has conquered Babylon, captured and killed its king, and established himself as the new

king, he begins to consider both how his whole empire might be continued and how still

more might be added to it.32 In other words, how might Cyrus not only found but

30
De Legibus, III.27-32; cf. III.10: Let [the senates] decrees be duly ratified. Note that the laws confer
on both the people and the senate the right to have their wishes duly ratified, which will work to prevent
one part of the republic from dominating another unjustly.
31
Compare, for example, the numerous references to the relationship between benefits and acquisition in
the Cyropaedia with Ciceros discussion of the acquisition of beneficial things in De Officiis, trans. Walter
Miller, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1990), II.9-87, esp. 23-51. Also see De Senectute, 59:
Xenophons writings are very instructive on many subjects and I beg you to go on reading them with
studious care.
32
Cyropaedia, VII.5.70.

14
perpetuate his new regime? That to achieve this goal Cyrus would seek to establish a

regime founded on the personal devotion of his loyal subjects is not completely

unexpected. Such a regime is foreshadowed earlier in the dialogue when a man who

claims to be Cyruss relative and who clearly loves him says that you seem to me to

have been born a king by nature, no less than is the naturally born leader of the bees in

the hive, for the bees obey him voluntarily. These bees, says the relative, are so devoted

to their ruler that they stay wherever he stays, and they follow him whenever he goes out,

so remarkably ardent is their innate love of being ruled by him.33 The relatives

reflection on the devotion of Cyruss subjects follows immediately after an episode in

which Cyrus discusses the power of love in human life. Cyrus suggests in that earlier

exchange that falling in love is somehow involuntary and that those in love have been

bound by some necessity stronger that if they had been bound in iron.34 Though the

youth Araspas with whom Cyrus is speaking dismisses as wretched weaklings those

who fall prey to such emotions, nevertheless Araspas is himself captured by love when

charged with guarding a beautiful woman. That Araspas would be so quickly overcome

by an emotion he so vehemently scorned is, Xenophon writes, nothing to wonder at.35

Xenophon seems to suggest at least two things through his narrative juxtaposition

of stories about the power of love and natural kingly virtue: first, the regime of kingship

is founded on a personal and powerful devotion to the king on the part of his subjects

and, second, a regime founded on this basis lacks any kind of real political freedom. After

all, bees in a hive act according to mere instinct; they do not employ the political art as

human beings do. In other words, bees do not organize into political parties, nominate

33
Cyropaedia, V.1.24.
34
Cyropaedia, V.1.12.
35
Cyropaedia, V.1.13, 18.

15
candidates, and cast ballots to determine who the queen will be. In this sense, the notion

that subjects of a king, like bees in a hive, act voluntarily, as was just suggested by

Cyruss relative, is called into serious question. Or rather, the actions of a kings subjects

are as voluntary as are those of bees, which is to say not at all. That subjects of a king

may happen to think they are acting voluntarily but are in fact ignorant of the truth about

their political situation is consistent with something we learned earlier in the dialogue:

Tigranes, a former hunting partner of Cyrus, was, he says, taught by a certain wise man

who used to accompany him on hunts that the wrongs human beings commit out of

ignorance are all involuntary.36 If it is indeed true that Cyrus has a kingly soul by nature

and that that fact causes his subjects and allies to act in the involuntary manner of bees,

rather than free menas if they had been made politically blind or ignorant by loveit is

in that case no great surprise that Cyrus would establish a regime in which he exercises

total control from the center, with no institutional controls of any kind on his power. But

such a regime is a far cry from Scipios moderate regime, a mixed republic meant for

free peoples (liberis populis) in which citizens know how to rule and are ruled in turn.

True, citizens of Scipios regime will be taught to cherish and love (colant diligantque)

their magistrates, but, given that a magistrate is a law that speaks, and a law is a silent

magistrate, this will be a love for the rule of law rather than a personal love of the

magistrate himself.37

Nevertheless, near the end of the seventh book of the Cyropaedia, Cyrus holds

out the possibility that he might establish a truly just regime rather than one based merely

on the personal devotion of his subjects. Cyrus observes that it is a great work to gain an

36
Cyropaedia, III.1.38.
37
De Legibus, III.2, 4-5.

16
empire, but it is an even much greater work to keep one safe after taking it. The first, he

says, requires only daring, but the second demands moderationcontinence[and]

great care.38 Rule over an empire is fraught with much more danger than the acquiring

of one. Realizing this, says Cyrus, we must now practice virtue much more than

before we acquired these good things.39 He goes on to say that the right to rule is

founded in the fact that the Persians and their allies are rulers who are better than our

subjects.40 Furthermore, the reason to keep those they will rule ignorant of military

science and practice is because these are the tools of freedom and happiness for human

beings.41 Cyrus suggests that he and his fellow Persians understand true freedom and

happiness and are therefore justified in keeping ignorant those who seek to destroy those

things. Cyrus concludes by urging his audience three times to practice what is noble and

good, not least for the sake of their children, for whom they must be the best possible

patterns of such virtue.42 In this way, following such practices, the regime of virtue

might be transmitted down through the generations. Certainly it is not a farfetched

speculation to suppose that Cicero had in mind this image of benevolent and just rule

over conquered peoples when he urged his brother Quintus to imitate Cyrus as the image

of a just ruler.

By the end of the seventh book, Cyrus has done much to increase our political

expectations for the regime he is about to found, expectations that are soon proven to be a

false hope. Cyrus may be able to gain his empire as a king, but the establishment of

monarchical rule over this empire as a method of everyday governance leads after his

38
Cyropaedia, VII.5.76.
39
Cyropaedia, VII.5.77.
40
Cyropaedia, VII.5.78.
41
Cyropaedia, VII.5.79.
42
Cyropaedia, VII.5.84-86.

17
death to the empires collapse. Chrysantas, a loyal follower of Cyrus, sets the

monarchical tone almost from the beginning of the eighth book, when he says, I have

often reflected that a good ruler is no different from a good father.43 That is, good

politics is paternal politics. But of course, this makes the citizens of the regime into

children, rather than the free peoples celebrated by Marcus in De Legibus.

True, Chrysantas celebrates the kind of ruling and being ruled in turn that to a

degree characterized the earlier Persian republic, and which seemed to foster the virtues

needed to make possible the great conquests described in the first seven books of the

Cyropaedia. He notes that while many of the men present were previously ruled by

others, now all of you who are present are prepared to rule over others, some over more,

others over fewer.44 In other words, Chrysantas claims he and his fellow soldiers have

learned the type of rule that characterizes a republic of free citizens. Cyrus himself had

long encouraged his men to think this way, not least when he had urged the establishment

of a system of honors according to a soldiers individual merit, whether Peer or

commoner. Indeed, Xenophons word choice at this point is striking: Pheraulas, speaking

on behalf of the commoners, urges his fellow common soldiers to agree to Cyruss

proposal, and to enter into a battle against the educated, for they are now men caught in

a democratic struggle.45 In other words, this contest over honors is really a contest over

the question of who will rule in the regime, and suggests that some kind of democratic

element will be included.

Yet, this does not stop Chrysantas from concluding that he and his comrades

should offer ourselves to Cyrus to use in whatever way might be needed, for he will

43
Cyropaedia, VIII.1.1.
44
Cyropaedia, VIII.1.4.
45
Cyropaedia, II.3.1-16: Cf. II.2.17-27.

18
not be able to find any way to use us for his own good that will not be good for us as

well, since the same things are advantageous for us, and our enemies are the same.46

Chrysantas, like Cyruss relative, is apparently blinded by love for a natural ruler, and he

seems unable to see the potential conflict between paternalism or kingship and self-rule.47

Just as Araspas scorned as wretched weaklings those who would succumb to the

charms of a lady, no matter how beautiful, surely Chrysantas would heap similar scorn on

those unwilling or unable to rule themselves, no matter how alluring the alternative

political prospect.48 And yet, like Araspas, Chrysantas nevertheless succumbs to his own

powerful temptation. In doing so, Chrysantas seems to view happiness in the same

childlike way Croesus said he does, after being conquered by Cyrus: as the enjoyment of

the good things in life without the worry of securing them.49 In response, Cicero might

observe that it is precisely because each element of the regimethe monarchical, the

aristocratic, and the popularsees its own advantage differently at different times that

the regime itself must be mixed for the good of all or for the sake of justice and

moderation.

Chrysantas succeeds in persuading his audience, and the founding of the new

regime quickly follows. The first step is the creation of an aristocracy of honor, which

reports each day to be used in whatever way [Cyrus] wished, until he should dismiss

them.50 In other words, this aristocracy has no institutional independence from the king,

but instead serves his wishes. What is more, the best members of this aristocracy of honor

serve as fellow guardians of Cyruss happiness: Not only is the aristocracy of the best

46
Cyropaedia, VIII.1.5.
47
Cf. Cyropaedia, V.1.24.
48
Cf. Cyropaedia, V.1.13.
49
Cyropaedia, VII.2.28.
50
Cyropaedia, VIII.1.6.

19
and most honorable men completely subservient to the kings wishes, the best of the best

are assigned explicitly to guard the kings personal happiness.51 Of course, this makes

sense in a regime founded on a purely monarchical principle, in which the kings

happiness is equated with the happiness of all. Certainly, this institutional subservience

offers a stark contrast to the kind of regime prescribed in De Legibus, which features an

independent senate that will guide the deliberations of the republic.52

After the creation of the aristocracy, Cyrus, guided by those principles of

military organization to which he adhered as he was conquering in the field,

centralized his administrative affairs.53 In doing so, Cyrus placed himself at the

pinnacle of an administrative hierarchy, through which his governing orders could be

relayed to the far reaches of his vast empire, allowing him to rule an extensive territory

and many peoples while speaking directly only with a few subordinates. Though this

arrangement displays the very height of military efficiency, it also appears to mark a

decisive turn away from the principle of ruling and being ruled in turn, a principle

Chrysantas had recently celebrated and which seemed to characterize the training of the

troops earlier in the Cyropaedia, when commoners could compete with the Peers for

preeminence and the right to rule over their fellow soldiers.54 That this is a regime in

which political freedom is completely absent for anyone other than the king is made plain

when Xenophon compares the kings management of this domestic arrangement to the

giving of orders by a general to his subordinates.55 Later, Cyrus strengthens his iron

grip on power by sending out satraps to help him rule over conquered nations, in addition

51
Cyropaedia, VIII.1.10.
52
De Legibus, III.28.
53
Cyropaedia, VIII.1.14-15.
54
Cyropaedia, II.1.11-28.
55
Cyropaedia, VIII.1.14.

20
to the commanders and colonels who are already stationed there, so even now the king

still has guard posts in the citadels, and the guards colonels are appointed by the king

and registered with the king.56 Xenophon writes that these safeguards of the kings

power and authority are still in place, and all political actions are concentrated in a few

who are in control.57 Though he now possesses a viselike grip on power, Cyrus takes no

chances: He implements army patrols that check up annually on the satraps and a

messenger system that allows him to know what is happening in far flung provinces and

to act quickly on the intelligence. At this point, Xenophon tells us, Persia was governed

by one judgment, Cyrus treated his subjects just like his own children, and his subjects

venerated Cyrus as a father.58 In other words, the founding of a pure type of monarchical

regime, fit for ruling over children rather than free peoples, is now complete.

True, Cyrus presents himself to the best or most honorable men of his regime,

those he calls his partners, as someone who is most of all adorned with virtue and a

model of moderation and continence. Indeed, Cyrus is said to have greatly excelled

in all noble deeds and to have offered himself as a pattern of such nobility. 59

However, when it came to his own safety, Cyrus feared these very same men whom he

encouraged in virtue, not least because many of them possessed the high thought that

they were competent to rule. The virtues that are rightly celebrated in the mixed regime,

by those who are able to rule and be ruled in turn, are feared by the all-powerful monarch

who perceives that those men who possess these virtues present the greatest risk to his

56
Cyropaedia, VIII.6.9.
57
Cyropaedia, VIII.6.14.
58
Cyropaedia, VIII.6.16-17, 8.1; cf. VIII.1.44.
59
Cyropaedia, VIII.1.16, 21,30-33, 36-38

21
political power, not to mention his very life.60 After all, those trained in virtues such as

courage and moderation or continence may soon decide they know best how to rule

themselves. Now, it is precisely at this moment, when Cyrus becomes concerned for his

personal power and safety, and this concern appears to trump all other concerns, that we

can begin to see how a kingship is turned into tyranny in the way that Scipio described

and predicted. Because it is now that Cyrus decides, for the sake of his safety, that he

must try to make the strongest become friendlier to himself than to each other. Rather

than the good of the entire regime, Cyrus seems at this point more interested in pursuing

his own personal good, and sets out to make himself loved by those who pose the most

danger to his rule.61

Though there are a number of actions Cyrus takes to make himself loved by those

he fears most, it would be most instructive in this context to consider just one of them,

since it bears directly on the idea of a slippery slope to tyranny that beckons all

monarchies.62 The last of the things [Cyrus] contrived with a view toward being in first

place for those by whom he wished to be loved, according to Xenophon, is the

establishment of contests meant to implant a competitiveness over noble and good

works. This appears at first glance to be a good and prudent move, and indeed Cyrus

received praise for taking care that virtue be practiced by the best men of the regime.

However, these contests among the best men injected strife as well as competitiveness.

And this strife emerges as Cyruss ultimate political goal: By sowing envy and hate

among the losers, as well as ingratitude among the winners, he succeeds in turning the

competitors against each other. And at the same time, all seek to win over Cyruss

60
Cyropaedia, VIII.1.46.
61
Cyropaedia, VIII.1.48.
62
De Re Publica, I.44.

22
friendship, which serves only to contribute to the envy felt by the best men for each other.

Consequently, at the end of the day, most of the competitors wished one another simply

to be out of the way rather than do anything for their mutual good. In other words, Cyrus

divides those who were superior, so that they would love him more than each other.63

Cyrus, by putting the monarchical good before the common good, offers a

powerful example of the way in which the pure regime of monarchy is led down the

slippery path to injustice. The most charitable explanation of Cyruss actions is that he

mistakes his own personal or monarchical self-interest for that of the regime as a whole,

which is understandable given the type of regime under discussion. A monarchy, after all,

is ruled by an omnipotent monarch who is tasked with ruling in the interest of the entire

regime. From the point of view of the regime of pure monarchy, if the monarch fears for

his safety, he is justified in acting to protect himself, precisely because he acts to protect

the regime. But someone less inclined to such charity would, like Scipio, see the

political circle turning, however slowly, from monarchy to tyranny.64 At the very least,

it is clear that Cyrus is now fostering distrust among the best men or the aristocracy of his

regime, whereas in the past the element of trust formed one of the foundations of Persian

success on the battlefield and in the building of the empire.65 In this context it might be

helpful to mention briefly one other step taken by Cyrus to cement the love of the best

men of the regime for himself: the so-called Eyes of the king and Ears of the king. In

effect, Cyrus set up a system of informants, and, as a result, people are everywhere

afraid to say what is not advantageous to the king, just as if he were listening, and afraid

63
Cyropaedia, VIII.2.26-28.
64
De Re Publica, II.45.
65
Cyropaedia, VI.4.15.

23
to do what is not advantageous, just as if he were present.66 Working hand in hand with

this informant system is the messenger system he established as a way to centralize his

administration.67 These two systems, operating in concert with one another, exhibit all the

hallmarks of a kind of pre-modern totalitarian tyranny, rather than a benevolent kingship.

They habituate the souls of all the citizens to fear and distrust, rather than their opposites.

Given Cyruss growing distrust of the best men of the regime, and the distrust he

now seeks to foster in those same men for each otherand despite his deathbed

admonition to his sons to trust one another as they share rule of his sprawling empireit

is not surprising that his regime would collapse immediately upon his death.68 Such

distrust will eventually spread throughout the regime, from the top to the bottom. Once

habituated to such distrust, no mere deathbed exhortation can change the souls of the

citizens. When he exhorts his sons in this way, Cyrus seems to forget an earlier lesson he

taught his troops as they were going about building the empire. In the third book, when

the Persians and their allies are encamped outside the Assyrian fortifications, Chrysantas

urges Cyrus to give a speech encouraging his troops, just as the Assyrian king is doing

with his men. But Cyrus refuses, since no last minute urging, no matter how rhetorically

powerful, will change the souls of the troops. He reminds Chrysantas of the importance

of education, and of the fact that preparation for battle begins long before the battle itself.

Indeed, says Cyrus, if instant recitations can shape souls, then it would be the easiest

of all things both to learn and to teach the greatest virtue for human beings.69 But of

course, instant recitations cannot overcome the power of a longtime habit, or at least it

66
Cyropaedia, VIII.2.10-12.
67
Cyropaedia, VIII.6.17-18.
68
Cyropaedia, VIII.7.23-24.
69
Cyropaedia, III.3.54.

24
would be extremely difficult to do so.70 Rather, Cyruss regime is, at it always was, a

reflection of his own soul. In fact, all regimes are a reflection of their leadership, and on

this point Xenophon and Cicero agree. As Xenophon notes, for of whatever sort those

who are foremost may be, such also, for the most part, do those beneath them become.71

Cicero, writing in De Legibus about his own mixed regime, concurs: changes in the lives

and habits of the nobles change the morals of the civitas.72

Ciceros Letter to Quintus

This brings us back to the question posed at the beginning of this paper: Why

would Cicero recommend Cyrus as a model of a just ruler to his brother Quintus, given

the failure of Cyruss regime, as well as Scipios warning in De Re Publica about the

potential for monarchy to turn quickly and completely into the worst kind of tyranny? To

answer this question, it will be helpful to consider two additional things: first, the laws

promulgated by Marcus in De Legibus regarding the just use of monarchical or what he

calls royal power abroad and, second, a brief passage from De Officiis on the justice of

the Roman empire.

In De Legibus, Marcus promulgates two laws having to do with the use of the

royal or monarchical power abroad. After creating two consuls who will hold the royal

power of command, a power that, as we have seen, is first divided and then checked,

Marcus adds the following: On military service let [the consuls] have the highest

70
Cf. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, ed. and trans. Joe Sachs, (Newburyport, MA: Focus Publishing,
2002), 1103a10-1103b26, 1179b20-1180a15.
71
Cyropaedia, VIII.8.5.
72
De Legibus, III.32.

25
authority (ius), and let them obey no other. For them let the safety (salus) of the people

be the supreme law.73 The consuls are now limited only by their own understanding of

the safety or welfare of the people. But Marcus is not yet finished; he further enhances

the royal power by adding the following proviso for those times when the republic faces

an especially dangerous threat, foreign or domestic, to its very existence: Whenever a

serious war or civil discord shall arise, should the senate so decide, let one man hold

power equal to that of the two consuls for no longer than six months.74 For proponents

of the moderate mixed regime, it is somewhat shocking to see brought into existence a

power that is not only unchecked but undivided as well. What place can this omnipotent

and unified power have within a mixed republic of the type for which Marcus

promulgates his laws? Partisans of republican government can be forgiven if they find

themselves somewhat suspicious of what appears to be a type of military dictator who

could very well overwhelm the regimes republican institutions, depending on his talent

and ambitions.

In response to this legitimate republican fear, and in defense of Marcuss mixed

regime, at least two points must be made. One, the senate decides if and when to create

this position of unified power, which serves as a vital and important check upon it. The

best men of the regime must be convinced that the republic is truly in danger and that this

step is a very necessary last resort. Two, Marcuss law does not refer to a dictator but

rather to a populi magister, which literally means teacher of the people.75 Taking

Ciceros word choice seriously, it would not be unreasonable to think that this unified

command will serve not only to save the republic but also to teach the entire regime, the

73
De Legibus, III.8.
74
De Legibus, III.9.
75
De Legibus, III.9.

26
few and the many, about the true meaning of the just exercise of what is institutionally

speaking an unlimited power. Marcus later confirms this view when he promulgates the

laws governing the conduct of those fighting abroad in defense of the mixed republic:

Let them wage just wars justly; let them be sparing of the allies; let them contain

themselves and their men; let them augment the glory of their people; let them return

home with praise.76 Most importantly, if the republic decides to undertake a military

campaign, the cause must be a just one, and the methods employed for achieving victory

must be just as well. The power of the teacher of the people is thus limited by the

dictates of justice itself, which, for Cicero, is nothing other than the natural law that

governs all peoples, everywhere and at all times.77 This kind of limitation is no surprise

given the overall aim of Marcuss regime, an aim established in the very first law of the

magistracy: Iusta imperia sunto or Let the powers be just.78 Justice is the first word

of the law code establishing the offices of the magistrates, and it is the end at which that

codes laws aim.

Marcus thus puts the royal or monarchical power to work in the field of foreign

affairs on behalf of the cause of the just or mixed republic. The monarchical element is

circumscribed and tamed for the sake of justice for the entire regime. This royal power

may be necessary, especially when the very life of the regime is at stake, but those who

exercise it do so always with the purpose of preserving a regime that seeks justice for the

whole and not just a part. Marcus affirms the ultimate priority of domestic over foreign

76
De Legibus, III.9; cf. III.18.
77
De Re Publica, III.33: Note that, according to Ciceros definition of the natural law, the god will be the
one common teacher (magister) and general (imperator), so to speak, of all people, and this god is the
author, expounder, and mover of this law. Marcuss teacher of the people may possess a god-like power
of command over other human beings, but such power entails the corresponding duty to be obedient to, and
an expounder of, gods law.
78
De Legibus, III.6.

27
affairs when, in response to an objection made by his dear friend Atticus on behalf of

Romans living in the provinces, he says, But if they obey these laws, Titus, they will

find nothing sweeter than the city and their homes, and nothing more full of toil and

trouble than a province.79 Success in foreign affairs may be necessary for the safety of

the just republic, but true happiness is found at home, within the confines of the mixed

and moderate regime. And as we get closer to home, the monarchical element that had

been granted considerable latitude of action abroad is bound down ever more tightly by

the institutional checks of the mixed regime.

Clearly, Cicero thinks the royal element holds a very important place in the mixed

regime, especially in the external realm of foreign affairs, and justice is not only the aim

but also the limit of this power. Because Quintus must act in this external realm of

conquered peoples, Cicero seeks to guide his brother in this task. As proconsul in Asia,

Quintus has an important part to play in the exercise of the mixed regimes monarchical

power. A brief passage from De Officiis offers some support for this interpretation, and in

it we can see how Cicero applies his understanding of the just use of royal power to the

case of Rome and its empire. He celebrates an earlier time when Rome ruled its empire

justly, and in so doing he suggests how he believes men like Quintus, holding the

absolute power of command, should act. In the second book of De Officiis, which is

devoted to an examination of useful or beneficial things, near the beginning of a section

on the ineffectiveness of fear as a method of acquiring the support and esteem of others,

Cicero writes as follows:

as long as the empire (imperium) of the Roman people was maintained


through acts of kind service (beneficiis) and not through injustices, wars
were waged either on behalf of allies or about imperial rule (imperio);
79
De Legibus, III.19.

28
wars were ended with mercy or through necessity; the senate was a haven
and refuge for kings, for peoples, and for nations; moreover, our
magistrates and generals (imperatores) yearned to acquire the greatest
praise from one thing alone, the equitable (aequitate) and faithful defense
of our provinces and of our allies.80

In keeping with the legislation that orders generals and their troops to wage just wars

justly, to be sparing of the allies, and to return home with praise, Cicero lauds the

older Roman empire for its justice, a justice which has disappeared almost entirely by his

own day.81 Having rejected its older republican form of government in favor of a contest

for rule among its most preeminent though mostly unjust menthe phenomenon of

CaesarismRome began to act unjustly abroad as well, mistreating its allies and drawing

just sufferings upon itself. Apparently, acting justly is not only the right thing to do but it

also brings with it the added benefit of a secure and peaceful empire.82 Thus a recovery of

Romes republican government entails a rejection of the contest for the bloody spear by

the leading men of Rome and an embrace of the mixed republic outlined in De Legibus.83

But such a recovery also requires the just treatment of allies abroad: these domestic and

international policies go hand in hand. Rome must once again be guided by the

understanding that a just empire is maintained not through injustices but through acts

of kind service (beneficiis).

Cicero is thus urging Quintus to be one of those equitable and faithful defenders

of our provinces and of our allies when he commends the example of Cyrus to him.

Quintus is someone who will rule over a province with the same kind of absolute power

wielded by Xenophons Cyrus, with no institution or right of appeal to check him or

80
De Officiis, II.26.
81
De Legibus, III.9.
82
De Officiis, II.27-28.
83
De Officiis, II.29.

29
reverse his decisions, and so he must demonstrate a similar kind of virtue. As Cicero

writes,

Only a really great man, moderate by nature (natura moderati) and


cultivated by instruction (doctrina) and devotion to the highest pursuits
(artium), can so behave himself in a position of such power that those
under his rule desire no other power than his. Such a one was Cyrus as
described by Xenophon, not according to historical truth but as the image
of a just ruler (effigiem iusti imperi); in him that philosopher joined the
greatest seriousness (gravitas) with singular courtesy (comitate). With
good reason our Roman Africanus used to keep that book always in his
hands. It overlooks no aspect of a diligent and moderate rulers duty
(officium diligentis et moderati imperi).84

Cicero, in recommending Cyrus as a model for Quintus the proconsul to follownot to

mention the great Roman general Scipio Africanusputs a special emphasis on

moderation, a virtue Cyrus learned as a boy and which is a recurring theme in the

Cyropaedia.85 Cyrus is not, as the argument of De Re Publica makes clear, a model in the

way he sought to establish a regime of pure monarchy after building his empire (an

immoderate pursuit which only serves to demonstrate how that type of regime eventually

fails and turns into tyranny), but in the way in which he pursued the building of his

empire. In other words, if Rome is going to have an empire, and the fact is that it does, it

should follow one of the best models of moderate monarchical power in action, even

though that model will also eventually reveal the ultimate political limitations of this type

of power. It is only mixed republican government that can overcome the inherent

immoderation of the three pure regime types, an immoderation that Scipio equates to a

sheer and slippery path set before each one.86 Given the immoderate tendencies of the

pure regime types, moderation becomes especially important for a proconsul whose own

84
Letter to Quintus, I.1.22-23.
85
Cyropaedia, I.2.8-9, 16; I.5.9-10; III.1.16-22; III.2.4; IV.1.14; IV.2.41-45; VI.1.47; VII.5.74-77;
VIII.1.30-39; VIII.8.15.
86
De Re Publica, I.44.

30
personal virtue must stand in for any kind of institutional moderation. If Quintus acts in

this moderate way, he will be, like Cyrus and like the Roman senate of old, a haven and

refuge for kings, for peoples, and for nations.87

Now, at least one leading translator and interpreter of Xenophons work looks

behind the faade of Cyruss seemingly benevolent and moderate actions only to discover

an extremely immoderate desire for imperial rule that has been present from the very

beginning. That is, Cyruss extraordinary restraint in the short run is not indicative of

true virtue but is necessary as a means to the attainment of his empire in the long run.

Yet, it nevertheless remains true that while Cyrus was busy building and extending the

foundations of his powerhe was then the very model of austerity.88 It is this model of

austerity or moderation that Cicero would like to see Quintus demonstrate and cultivate,

especially in terms of being an equitable and faithful defender of Romes allies. Of

course imitating Cyrus would be a bad thing, if it led to the establishment of the type of

regime we see come into being by the end of the Cyropaedia. But put in the service of the

mixed republic, this type of power might be moderated, prevented from turning to

injustice, and instead made to serve the common good. If this interpretation is correct, it

suggests that Cicero may have understood the Cyropaedia as a whole as a depiction of

the natural motion and circuit of unchecked monarchical power as it necessarily turns

from benevolent kingship into tyranny, which apparently would have happened whether

or not Cyrus had ever possessed true virtue. To save the Persian regime would have

required someone of great civic prudence with the ability to see the political circle

turning and who could then have taken the appropriate steps to slow down, stop, or even

87
De Officiis, II.26.
88
Introduction to Xenophon, The Education of Cyrus, 16.

31
reverse this change.89 In other words, Persia could have benefitted from the presence of a

Scipio, who understood that [b]eneath that tolerable and even lovable king Cyrus (to

pick the best [potissimum] example) there lurks, at the whim of a change of his soul

(animi), a Phalaris, the cruelest of all; and it is an easy downward path to that kind of

domination.90

Understood this way, the letter to Quintusa letter which, as noted at the

beginning of this essay, was most likely not written merely for private consumptionis

part of Ciceros larger project to restore a truly republican and therefore moderate Roman

government, both at home and abroad. Indeed, as Cicero has indicated, it is not possible

to have one without the other. At the end of the day, Cyrus is worthy of emulation insofar

as he is a model for Roman provincial military governors, but he must be rejected as a

model for domestic politics. Monarchy by itself, like the other two pure regime types,

eventually becomes immoderate and therefore unjust. Despite Cyruss acknowledgment

that it takes moderation and continence to maintain an empire, immoderation

ultimately triumphs, and the empire collapses immediately after his death.91 Cyrus falls

victim to the same kind of immoderate love of glory or Caesarism that plagues the Rome

of Ciceros day. If the Roman republic is to be restored, this type of overweening pride or

unbridled passion must be led into the training ring of reason and tempered by justice and

moderation. Men of towering political ambition must be made to see that what is truly

honorable is not found in personal glory alone, but in serving the republic by doing, great,

difficult, and dangerous deeds on its behalf.92

89
De Re Publica, II.45.
90
De Re Publica, I.44.
91
Cyropaedia, VII.5.76.
92
De Officiis, I.61-92, esp. 64-66, 86, 90.

32
In the end, monarchy can only ever be one element, if a very important element,

of the truly just regime. And Cicero can, without contradiction, attack the injustice of

pure monarchy on the one hand while celebrating Cyrus as a model for his brother on the

other. Ciceros mixed regime imitates Cyrus as an image of just power, but only in the

realm of foreign policy and not for the sake of power itself. Rather, Cicero seeks to take

advantage of the kind of virtues Cyrus displays as he is building his empire, especially

the moderation needed to govern a province justly while holding absolute power over it.

For Cicero, the mixed regime that puts the monarchical power to work on its own behalf

is the only kind of regime that can ever be truly just.

33